Teemu Pukki today rejected the suggestion that Hibs status as a Championship club immediately made Brondby favourites to win their Europa League double-header.
The Finnish striker, a £3million signing by current Hibs boss Neil Lennon for Celtic, admitted he was looking forward to going head-to-head with his old manager but revealed he had happy memories of facing the Capital’s clubs, four of his seven goals for the Glasgow outfit having come against Hibs and Hearts.
The 25-year-old scored the only goal of the game against Hibs at Celtic Park and was on target again later in the season as a 4-0 defeat kept Terry Butcher’s side sliding towards relegation while the former Schalke 04 hitman netted twice at Tynecastle.
Hibs, of course, have failed twice since then to regain their Premiership status but, insisted Pukki, that didn’t make them any less a threat.
He told the Evening News: “I don’t know about Brondby being favourites, we start at 0-0, we play two games and who knows what can happen although, obviously, we’ll be trying to get through.
“Tomorrow night will be a hard game for us. They always are in Scotland, but I did quite well against the Edinburgh teams when I was with Celtic and I have scored at Easter Road.”
Pukki admitted he was relishing seeing Lennon again, his solitary season in Scotland resulting in a loan move to Brondby which later became permanent. He said: “After we played Valur in the last round I had a look and I was surprised to se he was manager here. It will be nice to see him.
“I enjoyed playing here in Scotland but I just needed to play more, and I think my kind of football is more suited to Denmark than Scotland.”
Brondby, of course, crushed Icelandic side Valur 10-1 on aggregate with Pukki scoring three of their goals over the two ties but, he claimed, no-one could read too much into that result. He said: “It gives you confidence and as a striker it was good to get a couple of goals after the holiday, but I think Hibs will be much harder opponents. The crowds in Scotland always create a good atmosphere. We’ll have some of our own coming from Copenhagen so it should be enjoyable.”
Tomorrow night will see Pukki come face-to-face with countryman Otso Virtanen, the Finnish Under-21 goalkeeper set to make his first competitive start for Hibs after his arrival on a three-and-a-half year contract in January, but the international hitman – he’s played nearly 50 games for his nation – backed the 22-year-old to grab his chance.
He said: “Hibs have had a few Finnish players over the years, Mixu Paatelainen, of course, Jarkko Wiss and Shefki Kuqi and Otso is the latest. I don’t know him personally but he is a friend of a friend of mine so I know of him.
“Yes, there might be a bit pressure on him because this will be his first game, but he has played many games in Finland and for our Under-21s to I think he will be ready. Hopefully he goes on to have a good season here.”